January 16, 2021
seizures in dogs

Seizures in dogs symptoms | Treatment

What are seizures in dogs and symptoms?

Seizures in dogs are a sudden, uncontrolled body movement due to altered electrical signals from the brain. It can cause loss of consciousness, uncontrolled defecation and urination.

What causes seizures in dogs ?

Pets can have seizures due to many causes. They are divided into two categories.

  • Intracranial ( in the brain) 
  • Extracranial (outside of the brain)

Intracranial causes:

  • Brain tumor 
  • Inflammation of brain 
  • Head injury
  • An inherited disorder, (Idiopathic Epilepsy)

Extracranial causes:

  • Toxicity 
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Low blood glucose 
  • Blood clot
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Anemia
  • Strokes
seizures in dog

What breeds are prone to Idiopathic epilepsy in dogs?

  • Australian shepherds, 
  • Beagles, 
  • Belgian Tervurens,
  • Collies
  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers

What Are the Types of Seizures? 

  • Idiopathic epilepsy refers to seizures that have no known cause. It is more common in young to middle-aged dogs, between the ages of six months and five years. Affected dogs appear completely normal between seizures.
  • Grand mal seizures are also called generalized seizures.  Abnormal electrical activity in the brain can cause these types of seizures lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes.
  • Focal seizures refer to when lesions are focal in the brain.
  • Psychomotor seizures, in this type of seizure, may have strange behaviour, like excessively chasing her tail, running around and biting at imaginary objects.

 What happens during seizures in dogs and its symptoms?

Seizure episodes are divided into three components:

  • The pre-ictal phase,  just before the seizures. Your pet may be restless, whining, nervous, or salivating. It lasts a few seconds to a few hours. 
  • The ictal phase, it is the actual seizure phase. Your pet may show some or all of seizure symptoms; it lasts from a few seconds to several minutes and can vary in appearance.
  • The post-ictal phase, just after seizures. The pet may be confused, disorientated or even temporarily blind. It can last for a few hours.

What Are the Symptoms of Seizures in dogs? 

Symptoms are variable depending on causes of the seizures. But some common symptoms are below:

  • Muscle twitching
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Jerking movements
  • Stiffness in legs or full body
  • Collapsing
  • Involuntary defecating or urinating
  • After the seizure, the pet may appear confused and disoriented. 

How are seizures in dogs diagnosed?

Diagnosis of the seizures may involve many steps

  • Thorough history regarding pet’s general health, exposure to a toxin, any head injury or ongoing medications.
  • A thorough physical examination to check the pet’s vital parameters
  • Complete blood count (CBC) may show anemia or high white blood cells (WBC)
  • Blood chemistry to see the functioning of kidney, liver, electrolyte imbalance and other important blood parameters.
  • X-rays to see any tumor or other structural changes in the body
  • CT scan of the brain may helpful in intracranial lesions like a brain tumor or clot
seizures in dog

How are seizures treated?

Treatment is generally recommended depending on frequency of the seizures and pet’s overall health.:

Your pet need probably life long mediation in the following conditions:

  •  If the frequency of seizure is more than once per month. Then the pet need medications
  • When your pet has one seizure that is immediately followed by another seizure, it is called a cluster seizure. Then, medication is mandatory.
  • Seizures longer than 3 minutes of duration are very dangerous.  

Different types of medications are available for seizures in dogs. The selection of the medication is done based on the pet’s response to a particular medicine, the veterinarian’s personal choice and cost factor.

Phenobarbital, Potassium Bromide, Zonisamide, Levetiracetam are common drugs in use for seizures in dogs. Zonisamide and Levetiracetam are new drugs, they have fewer side effects, but they are expensive as compared to older drugs.

 They may be given individually or in combination depending on the pet’s response to the treatment. Anti-seizure medications are life, so never change or stop any anti-seizure medication without your veterinarian’s recommendation.

What to Do If Your Dog Has a Seizure?

If your pet has a seizure, stay calm. Protect him or her from self injury, keep away from sharp objects or stairs. Do not put your hand in your pet’s mouth. During seizures, your pet’s body temperature may rise. Stitch on a fan or place cold packs to keep the pet’s body cool. Rush your pet to your veterinarian.

Some other important articles:   

Chocolate poisoning in a dog

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pyometra in Dogs

Seizures in dogs

This information is NOT intended as a substitute for veterinary consultation for any of your pet’s diseases. Always consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan.


  • Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline by Larry P. Tilley, Francis W. K. Smith
  • Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice by Robert G. Sherding and Stephen J. Birchard
  • Emergency Procedures for the Small Animal Veterinarian by Signe J. Plunkett
  • Merck Veterinary Manual by  Susan Aiello
  • 100 Top Consultations in Small Animal General Practice by Peter Hill, Sheena Warman, Geoff Shawcross
  • Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook by Donald C. Plumb
  • Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Manual, 3rd Edition by Karol A. Mathews
  • Veterinary Guide for Animal Owners, 2nd Edition by C.E. Spaulding, D.M.V. Jackie Clay 
  • Small Animal Emergency and Critical Care for Veterinary Technicians Third edition by Andrea M. Battaglia, LVT, Andrea M. Steele, MSc, RVT, VTS (ECC)

Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

View all posts by Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM →

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